Live Review: Slam Dunk Festival North – 28/05/23 – plus Gallery

Known as the unofficial start to festival season, Slam Dunk returned bigger and better in 2023! Back to two locations rather than the popular three, we visited Temple Newsam on Sunday to catch some bands in the sun!

The festival this year is sold out and it’s obvious that people are hungry for the diverse mix of alternative bands that will grace the stages today. First up for us were Heriot, their unique sludgey metal was the perfect wake up call for a Sunday morning. Frontwoman and guitarist Debbie Gough with piercing screams that would’ve been heard in the queues on the M1 getting into the festival. Tracks like Dispirit and Cleansed Existence go down well- these are a band to watch out for in the future. 8/10

Next up on the Dickies Stage were Millie Manders & The Shutup. A band who probably deserved to play higher up the bill, but with such a strong line-up on that particular stage today, they still had a great turn out early on. Millie as a front woman is a force to be reckoned with and her energy is electric- with her backing band to match. Your Story a certified bop. 7/10

Next up on the Rock Scene stage were fan favourites Vukovi, the Scottish outfit always bringing good vibes and a party atmosphere to any stage. It only took three songs for front woman Janine Shilstone to jump off stage and get into the mix of the crowd. Singing into people’s faces and iPhones, they leave a memorable mark on the Leeds crowd. Ending the set with huge anthem La-Di-Da, these will be higher on festival bills in the future. 9/10

Up on the Key Club Right stage were American duo Girlfriends. Consisting of vocalist Travis Mills and drummer Nick Gross, the pair make love songs and pop punk anthems for all ages. Reminiscent of Blink 182, Mills grabs his guitar on the third track and warns everyone to cover their ears whilst they play Eyes Wide Shut from their debut album. Their cover of No Doubt’s Just A Girl goes down a storm but it’s their anthemic California that the crowd were truly waiting for. 7/10

Trash Boat are one of those bands who have been around for years yet are still the ones to watch, their live show is unmissable as they sound as stunning live as they do on record. Tobi Duncan is captivating, the way he commands the audience is unrivalled. Closing their set with two bangers from their 2021 release Don’t You Feel Amazing, today Trash Boat should. 9/10

Known as the ‘Slam Dunk House Band’ Zebrahead have only missed one or two of the festivals EVER. This year they’ve got a mid afternoon slot on the Dickies Stage and draw a massive crowd. The legends of the scene never ever disappoint and the energy bouncing between audience and band is huge. Managing to fit 10 tracks in their what seemed to be a super quick set, they managed to fit in songs from their almost 30 year career! The 2006 aptly named Anthem closing out a solid set for the American outfit. 7/10

Holding Absence are going from strength to strength, the British outfit are moving into a new era of the band in support of their album which is to be released in Summer 2023 The Nobel Art Of Self Destruction. Singer Lucas Woodland has a voice so powerful it soars up the hill that the stage is placed at the bottom of, note perfect. The Leeds crowd get a taster of what is to come on the new album with the band playing two new tracks. They don’t leave the northern mob without playing a plethora of their hits including the incredible Afterlife. A solid set from a great British band. 8/10

Static Dress, fresh from their win at the Heavy Music Awards just two days earlier, dominate the Knotfest tent early afternoon. With a production value worthy of a headline slot, the band grace the stage with a looming black curtain at the back, which later shows a figure stood on a crucifix as well as old tv’s with videos accompanying each song. The set was a stand out from the day as it was memorable for all the good reasons. The band are embarking on a UK tour at the end of the year, get tickets, you will not be disappointed!! 10/10

Gogol Bordello are an interesting outfit, they have both an accordion player and a violinist on stage. Having been a band since 1999, they know how to command a stage no matter the time of day but lucky for them there was a huge turnout for the American punk rockers. With the mixture of vocalist on stage and the fusion of Romani, punk and rock elements, it makes for a vision of creativity and energy on the stage. The anthemic Start Wearing Purple goes down a treat as expected, a strong and jolly set. 7/10

Slam Dunk 2023 saw the triumphant return of the Welsh legends Kids in Glass Houses. After almost 9 years since the band called it a day, they have reuinted for the 15 year anniversary of their debut album Smart Casual. It’s obvious to see how much the band have missed performing together with the sheer delight on each of the band members’ faces. Closing the set with Matters At All, Saturday and the anthemic Give Me What I Want, these songs sound as good, if not better in 2023, than when they were first released. Welcome back, guys. We have missed you! 8/10

After almost two decades of making music, Escape the Fate return to the UK for the early evening slot on the Knotfest stage. With a 7 full length albums in their repertoire (with an 8th due in Summer), ETF please fans of all eras of the band. Newer track Lightening Strike force the crowdsurfers to scramble of the heads of their fellow revellers, whilst Ashley from This War Is Ours led for a more slower moment to the set. Closing with This War Is Ours then One For The Money, ETF put on a stellar performance and prove why after almost 20 years they’re still one of the best hardcore bands in the business. 10/10

Creeper are such a special band, they’ve grafted so hard over the past couple of years to establish themselves as the godfathers (& mothers) of goth in the UK. This is not their first Slam Dunk festival, they know how to entertain a crowd like this northern mob and to start their show, keyboardist and backing vocalist Hannah Hermione graced the stage with a decapitated head of vocalist Will Ghould… what an entrance!

Unfortunatley having to cut short Suzanne due to an incident in the crowd (thankfully everyone was ok!) the band blast through hits from their back catalogue including the pop punk banger Hiding With Boys. The set ends with the always stunning Misery, possibly the loudest crowd singalong of the day! Creeper are always incredible and it’s exciting to see where their next era takes them with their new album Sanguivore out on Friday 13th October. We cannot wait! 9/10

“We are Bowling For Soup, the band you can wave to!” shouts Jaret Reddick up the hill to the huge turnout of fans to BFS’s subheadline set on the Dickies Stage. Bowling For Soup have all of the hits and bring their classic comedy to the stage too. High School Never Ends and Ohio (Come Back To Texas) are some of the first songs of the set- this means there are tonnes more hits to come if they can start with these tracks! Pausing during Punk Rock 101 for the ‘Bowling For Soup Photo Opportunity’, the band bring huge smiles to the faces of the crowd members and on both side stage and in the crowd, other bands members who have come out to watch how it is done. Closing with the now legendary Girl All The Bad Guys Want, this was a triumphant show for Bowling For Soup and will sure help shift some tickets for their tour with Less Than Jake in February 2024. 10/10

No strangers to Slam Dunk, British outfit Enter Shikari graced the Rock Scene stage to rapturous applause and cheers. If you’re a band that can start a set and include the tracks Sssnakepit and Juggernauts in the first three, you know you’re in for a good show. With pyro, flames and fireworks, the set literally began with a BANG. Having just released their new album A Kiss For The Whole World in April, the band play the title track from the album. When describing the new album, front man Rou Reynolds stated that theyr “wanted to make a high energy album of bangers” and this has translated into their already energetic and chaotic live show. Bringing guests in the form of Wargasm and Cody Frost, Shikari know how to put on the perfect headline show. Always the highlight of any Enter Shikari show are the ‘three claps’ to begin Sorry You’re Not A Winner and the Leeds crowd this evening did not disappoint, everyone in unison it gives a feel of a school assembly if you went to the coolest alternative school ever. Setting every one up for the long queues out of the festival, it almost doesn’t matter because it’s worth it to see Shikari at their best. If they aren’t headlining Download or Reading and Leeds in the next few years then it’s an absolute travesty. 9/10